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Ice Dogs score within 10 seconds of overtime to defeat Jets in a thriller at the Dipper

Published: Apr. 24, 2021 at 7:26 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Over 1,000 Fairbanks Ice Dogs fans were holding their breath Friday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena when the puck dropped on a 3-on-3 overtime period against the Janesville Jets. Fortunately for their lungs, the fans didn’t have to hold their breath long. Fairbanks forward Austin Becker won the OT face-off, sending the puck to Captain Andrew Garby, who simply dropped it back off to Becker on the left side of the ice. With no real pressure on him, Becker kept advancing towards Janesville’s net, where the lefthander eventually saw enough of an opening to fire a wrister passed the goalie, sending the crowd home happy with their first win at the Dip this year in a 5-4 OT thriller.

“I don’t know, it just feels pretty amazing,” said Becker after scoring his first career goal at the Big Dipper. “Especially it being the second game back up here, we needed a win like that, so it felt good for sure.”

Securing the win in net was Fairbanks-native Ryan Keyes, who was performing for the first time in front of many of the same fans he used to cheer next to at Ice Dogs games growing up.

“Growing up I always watched the Ice Dogs and loved them and it is just a real dream come true to play in the Dipper,” said Keyes, who had 25 saves in the win. “Obviously warmups I was pretty nervous, but once I got on the ice I was fine and the nerves went away and it was just another hockey game.”

The Ice Dogs knew they were better than their series-opening loss to the Jets on Thursday and skated out of the gates Friday as if they wanted to prove it. Midway through the first period, defenseman Jacob Conrad took a pass from behind the net off Owen Neuharth. Planted on one leg from just in front of the blue line, Conrad zipped a laser passed everyone it his path - including the netminder - for his third career goal and first in Fairbanks.

Forward Jake Hale saw Conrad celebrate his first Dipper goal and thought, ‘that looks like fun’, scoring his first goal in front of the home crowd just 27 seconds later and the Ice Dogs were in control 2-0. The Jets got one passed Keyes after about 28 minutes when Cade Destefani scored his second goal in as many games. However, also scoring for the second night in a row was Fairbanks’ leading goal scorer and three-year veteran Bret Link. With just under 8 minutes to go in the middle period, Conrad sent a stretch pass to Link in stride, where the future Alaska Nanook took care of the rest, finishing the one-on-one goal top shelf.

Fairbanks continued to possess the momentum, as Ty Naaykens became one of four Ice Dog players to light the lamp at the Big Dipper for the first when he scored his 5th goal of the season just over a minute into the third period. It was 4-1 Ice Dogs with less than 19 minutes to play - and somehow - we were just getting started.

Destefani scored his second of the game just 34 seconds after Naaykens, as the Jets attempted to suppress the 50% crowd. Janesville tacked on another with 13 minutes to go, before tying the game just two minutes later and the once comfortable lead suddenly vanished. The teams skated out the 4-4 tie for the remaining 11 minutes of play, before a two-minute intermission set up overtime.

“Pretty much just win a draw and try to get some offensive possession time and luckily we had a little bit of an odd-man rush there and we were able to bury it,” Becker said of the OT game plan.

It was the third time the two junior hockey teams needed extra time to settle the score, with the Ice Dogs winning in overtime on January 2 and the Jets taking shootouts on February 20.

The series-deciding game is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. The Ice Dogs will remain in Fairbanks following game three to host the Chippewa Steel April 30 and May 1.

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